Legendary rocker Alice Cooper demonstrated once again that no one knows quite how to throw a party the way he does.
The proof was in the 15th annual edition of his Christmas Pudding charity concert at the Celebrity Theatre Saturday night.
In recent years, the Pudding has been held at Comerica Theatre, but the smaller venue (5,000 capacity for Comerica versus 2,650 capacity for Celebrity) was a nice, more intimate, change of pace, and there was a great energy in the room all night. This year, the Coop brought along the Hollywood Vampires, his all-star band consisting of Johnny Depp and Joe Perry of Aerosmith; the Gin Blossoms; former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar; and Korn for what will go down as one of the best nights of music the Valley has seen all year.
One of the biggest surprises of the night was the opening slot by Korn, who absolutely massacred the stage during their 30-minute set. Seeing the band open with "Blind" on the small rotating stage was special, and it's likely been many years since the band has played in a venue that small. Singer Jonathan Davis brought the heaviest and most intense performance of the night, as the crowd sang along to songs like "Freak On a Leash." Apparently, the band had to play an early slot due to their stage requirements, and it seemed as though they'd be a very tough act to follow.
Sammy Hagar kept the party going playing his solo material, including "There's Only One Way to Rock," "Heavy Metal," and Van Hagar hits "Finish What You Started" and "Poundcake." While Korn was a tough act to follow, Hagar was on his game and played a fun set that had the middle-aged women in the crowd losing their minds as they danced throughout his set. He dipped way back in his
If anyone had their work cut out for them, it was the Gin Blossoms, who probably should have played a different slot because they simply couldn't compete with Korn or Hagar. They were up against superstars of hard rock; the jangle-pop the band is known for stuck out like a sore thumb. The Blossoms gave it their best shot by sticking to the songs that put them on the map, but "Follow You Down," "Found Out About You," and "Hey Jealousy" just sounded far too different from anything else coming from the superstars that night.
Alice Cooper and his Hollywood Vampires are an all-star cover band that pays tribute to Cooper's friends who became rock 'n' roll casualties over the years. One of the band's original songs, "Dead Drunk Friends," is the ultimate tribute to fellow musicians who weren't as lucky as Cooper, who kicked booze and drugs later in life. If we've learned anything about Alice over the years, we know how much respect he has for the past, and the Vampires are a great outlet for him to salute some of the greats. Their set was full of some of the best rock tunes of the past. Joe Perry was on fire during David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" and "Suffragette City," nailing those tunes and everything else he played all night. Covers of the Doors' "Five to One" and "Break on Through" were right in Cooper's wheelhouse, vocally. The glammy "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" and "20th Century Boy" by T. Rex saw them pay homage to Marc Bolan. Johnny Depp may be eye candy for the ladies, but the guy can really play the guitar these days, and he really seemed to enjoy interacting with the crowd.
The band was already 40-plus minutes into their set before diving into any of Alice's original material. "I'm Eighteen" was electric, and it's pretty unbelievable how great the Coop can still deliver the song after all of these years. Aerosmith fans got a great rendition of "Sweet Emotion" and Tiny
The night ended with most of the musicians who played earlier joining the Vampires onstage for a rockin' rendition of "Run, Rudolph, Run." It was a great way to end the night, but unlike other years of the Christmas Pudding, there was no snow falling from the ceiling of the venue, which was really the only setback to this year's venue change.
Saturday Night: Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding at Celebrity Theatre
The Crowd: The sold-out crowd seemed a little rowdier this year in a smaller venue.
Overheard: Sammy Hagar provided the most inappropriate moment of the night during Van Halen's "Finish What You Started," as he changed the lyrics in the bridge from "I need some sympathy" to "I need some pussy."
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Personal Bias: I think Alice Cooper is the most important musician to ever come out of Phoenix, and I'd be just as excited to see him play with a stage full of Santa Clauses.